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To the Parishioners of St. Mary, Whitechapel.
MY DEAR FRIENDS,
My object in writing these Plain Sermons on the Liturgy' was to draw your attention to the excellence of that Form of Prayer, which the Members of the Church of England are privileged to use. I endeavoured to shew that it is Scriptural in its words and matter-Spiritual in its character-comprehensive in the variety of its subjects-clear in its arrangement— and primitive in its origin. It was also my wish to state fairly the most common objections, and to answer them, and all this in language which the simplest of my Congregation could understand.
My hope in printing them, (which is done at the express wish of Members of my Congregation), is, that those impressions, which, (through the Divine Blessing) may have been made by the hearing of them, may be deepened and strengthened by the reading them. With prayer to God that they may do some little to set forth His Glory, and set forward your Salvation,' by leading you to worship Him here on earth "in spirit and in truth," and so assist to prepare you for praising Him eternally in heaven, I commend them to your kindness and candour, requesting you to read them with prayer;
Your affectionate Friend and Minister,
Rectory, February 1840.
W. WELDON CHAMPNEYS.
III. The Sentences of Scripture, at the opening of
PSALM CXxxiii. 1.
،، BEHOLD, HOW GOOD AND JOYFUL A THING IT IS, BRETHREN, TO DWELL TOGETHER IN UNITY."
God's own Word tells us, that "His ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts"—and almost every thing around, above, beneath us, (when looked into and seen with the mind's eye, as well as with that of the body) declares the same. Perhaps no one subject more plainly shews us this truth than the fact, that while we can only listen to the words of one person speaking at the same time, the Almighty is listening to the voices of millions at the self-same moment-is weighing each want and wish of every single petitioner-not confounding one with another, but ready to give to each his answer in due
We may and do look with wonder upon the Being who makes the flying cloud to pour its shower on each field, according to its appointed wants, and who gives, to every foot of land throughout the wide world, its due share, both of rain and sunshine-but when we think of the same Being, listening to the million prayers that are coming up (like steaming incense) from the earth-when we consider that He marks and remembers each and every one of those prayers, and notes them all,
how does the mind then acknowledge it as true, that "God's ways are not our ways.
We believe it, (though the understanding it is far above out of our reach) that God hears prayer wherever it is made-the first tear and sigh of the repenting spirit-the glance of the eye turned upwards to his mercy-seat-these, from the lisping of the infant's tongue to the full outpourings of the grown Christian's earnest and fervent heart, are all known to Him:-the wild and free American, in his Canadian forest or his rude church of logs -the poor Negro, "servant of servants to his brethren"-the dark Hindoo, by his once-worshipped Ganges-the Islander of the Pacific Ocean, amidst the scenes of his noble home -all who have been taught to "call on the name of the Lord," are heard by "the God and Father" of that Lord; and when, on some Sabbath morn, we think of the prayers which the Universal Church shall have offered up before the morrow, each one noted down, to receive its proper answer in the Almighty's own good time and manner,—we are lost in the immensity of the thought. The different tongues and languages-the various words of the same language, and the prayers of every word and of every tongue which have gone up before God's throne, crowd and dazzle the thoughts, as the countless specks that are seen playing in each sun-beam confuse the eye.
But when we turn our thoughts to this favoured land in which we live, and, while pouring out our own prayers and praises in our place of worship to our Father which is in heaven," we remember that distant friends and relations-parents whom we honour-brethren whom we love-friends whom we esteem—are at that very moment utter
ing the same prayers, offering up the same praises, before our Father's throne, in the very same WORDS, their hearts soaring on the same wings that bear up ours to heaven,—there is a charm in the thought that is very great. We feel, then, and know, in some degree, what is the "Communion of Saints;" and, though it is true, that "unity of spirit" is that which makes all prayers, however they may differ in the words in which they are spoken, to be one in God's sight, yet it seems no less true, that 'uniformity of words' is not without its power to keep together some unity of spirit.
Let us now shortly consider the 'subject of Public or Common Prayer.' And I would earnestly beg your attention to this subject, because, as members of the Church of England, you should be able to give a reason to such as differ from us, why you love our truly Apostolic Church, just as you ought to "be able to give a reason of the hope that is in you," as Protestant Christians; and remember it is one thing to be able to shew why you do as you do, and another to condemn others because they do otherwise the one you ought to do, for your Bible tells you to "prove all things"-the other you ought not to do, for the same Bible bids you to condemn no one.
PRIVATE PRAYER will necessarily be particular, for we then make known our own particular wants to our God. Self-Examination discovers to me my failings, and for those past failings I beg forgiveness, and against the like I ask help for the time to come. The believer prays, indeed, for his relations-his Christian brethrenthe sick-the needy-the afflicted :—but his own personal wants and failings, as a man, are the